Scientific American Supplement, No. 841, February 13, 1892 online

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off in pursuit of whoever has exhibited most terror at the sight of
the reptile. When within fair distance he hurls the snake at the
unfortunate victim, in the full assurance that even should it strike
him it cannot bury its fangs in his flesh, since it is impossible for
it to coil till it reaches the ground. This is a jest of which I have
frequently been the victim, nor have I yet learned to appreciate it
with unalloyed mirth.

The belief that rattlesnakes always give warning before striking is
not well founded. If come upon suddenly, they often strike first, and
if disturbed when in a space so narrow that the coil cannot be formed,
they may give no warning of their presence beyond the penetration of
the fangs into the hand or foot of an intruder. One such case I saw.

It seems to be well established that a snake will not voluntarily
crawl over a hair rope, and in certain parts of the country it is
common for campers-out to surround their beds with such a rope, since
the reptiles seek warmth, and are frequently found under or in the
blankets of those sleeping on the ground.

After an exceptionally large experience with wounds inflicted by the
fangs of the rattlesnake, and an experience which, I am glad to say,
has been most successful in its outcome, I think it my duty to add,
from a practical standpoint, my testimony as to the efficacy of
permanganate of potassium in the treatment of this class of cases.
This drug was first introduced by Lacerda, of Brazil, and, if more
generally used, would, I believe, render comparatively innocuous a
class of injury which now usually terminates in death.

I make this statement as to the fatality of crotalus poison advisedly.
I know the belief is very common that the poison of a rattlesnake is
readily combated by full doses of whisky. This is fallacious. I have
taken the pains to investigate a number of instances of cure resulting
from the employment of free stimulation. In each case the fangs did
not penetrate deeply into the tissues, but either scratched over the
surface or tore through, making a wound of entrance and exit, so that
the poison, or at least the major part of it, was not injected into
the tissues of the person struck. The effect is very much the same as
when an inexperienced practitioner picks up a fold of skin for the
purpose of making a hypodermic injection, and plunges his needle
entirely through, forcing the medicament wide of his patient.

Nearly all, if not all, of the cases treated by stimulation alone
have, according to my experience, perished if they have received a
full dose of virus from a vigorous snake. One of these cases lived for
upward of a month. He then perished of what might be considered a
chronic pyƦmia, the symptoms being those of blood poisoning,
accompanied by multiple abscesses. Another case, not occurring in my
own practice, died at the end of four days apparently of cardiac
failure. Active delirium persisted all through this case. Two other
cases treated by stimulants also died with symptoms of more or less
acute blood poisoning.

The feeling is almost universal among the people of Wyoming that a
fair strike from a rattlesnake is certain death, and that the free use
of stimulants simply postpones the end. I do not for a moment deny
that a strong, lusty man may be struck fairly by a rattlesnake and if
the wound is at once opened and cauterized, and the heart judiciously
supported, he may yet recover; still the fact remains that the great
majority of these cases perish at a longer or shorter interval
following the infliction of the wound. Hence any treatment that will
save even the majority of such cases is a distinct gain, and one which
has saved every one of nine cases to which it has been applied needs
no further commendation.

The first case of rattlesnake wound to which I was called occurred in
1885. A cow boy was bitten on the foot, the fang penetrating through
the boot. He was brought forty miles to Fort Fetterman, where I was
then stationed. I saw him about twenty-four hours after he was struck.
There was an enormous swelling, extending up to the knee. The whole
limb was bronzed in appearance. There was no special discoloration
about the wound; in fact, the swelling disguised this to such an
extent that it was impossible to determine exactly where the fangs had
entered. The pulse was scarcely perceptible at the wrist; the heart
was beating with excessive rapidity. The patient was suffering great
pain. His mind was clear, but he was oppressed with a dreadful
anxiety. Up to the time I saw him he had received absolutely no
treatment, excepting the application of a cactus poultice to the leg,
since there was no whisky at the ranch where he was wounded. I at once
made free incisions, five or six in number, from one to two inches in
depth, and about three inches in length. These cuts gave him very
little pain, nor was there much bleeding, though there was an enormous
amount of serous oozing. Into these wounds was poured a fifteen per
cent. solution of permanganate of potassium, and fully half an hour
was devoted to kneading this drug into the tissues. In addition I made
many hypodermic injections into all portions of the swollen tissue,
but particularly about the wound. Since there was no very distinct
line of demarkation between the swollen and healthy tissue, I did not,
as in other cases, endeavor to prevent the extension of the cellular
involvement by a complete circle of hypodermic injections. I employed,
in all, about forty grains of the permanganate. In addition to the
local treatment I pushed stimulation, employing carbonate of ammonium
and whisky. By means of diuretics and laxatives the kidneys and bowels
were encouraged to eliminate as much of the poison as possible.

The patient went on to uninterrupted recovery. The wound healed with
very little sloughing. The patient returned to his work in about a
month. The cure of this case was regarded by the cow boys as most
exceptional, since, in their experience, similar cases, even though
very freely stimulated, had not recovered.

Some time later I was called to see a girl, aged 14, who was struck by
a rattlesnake, fifty-six miles from Fort Fetterman. There was some
trouble about procuring relays, and I was compelled to ride the same
horse all the way out. This took a little short of five hours. This,
together with the time consumed in sending me word, caused an interval
of about twenty hours between the infliction of the injury and the
time I saw the patient. I found the fangs had entered on either side
of the distal joint of the middle metacarpal bone. The arm was
enormously swollen, almost to the axilla, and exhibited a bronzed
discoloration; this was especially marked about the wound and along
the course of the lymphatics. The swollen area was _boggy_ to the
touch, and exhibited a distinct line of demarkation between the
healthy and diseased tissues, excepting along the course of the
brachial vessels, where the indurated discolored area extended as a
broad band into the axilliary lymphatics, which were distinctly
swollen. The patient was delirious, was harrassed by terror,
complained bitterly of pain, and had an exceedingly feeble, rapid
heart action. There was marked dyspnoea, and all the signs of
impending dissolution. I at once made free multiple incisions into all
parts of the inflamed tissue, carrying two of my cuts through the
wounds made by the fangs of the snake. In the arm these incisions were
several inches long and from one to two inches deep. As in the former
case, the bleeding was slight, but there was a free exudation of
serum. Into these wounds a fifteen per cent. permanganate of potassium
solution was poured, and as much as possible was kneaded into the
tissues. In addition multiple hypodermic injections were made, these
being carried particularly into the bitten region, and circularly
around the arm just at the border of the line of demarkation, thus
endeavoring to limit by a complete circle of the antiseptic solution
the further extension of the inflammatory process. In the region of
the brachial vessels I hesitated to make my injections as thoroughly
as in the rest of the circumference of the arm, fearing lest the
permanganate of potassium might injure important vessels or nerves.

This treatment caused very little pain, but immediately after the
constitutional symptoms became distinctly aggravated. I stimulated
freely, and at once made preparations to take the patient to the Fort
Fetterman hospital. She was transported over the fifty-six miles, I
riding the same horse back again, and arriving at Fort Fetterman the
same evening.

The after treatment of this case was comparatively simple. She was
stimulated freely as long as cardiac weakness was manifested. As in
the former case, diuretics and laxatives were employed. The arm was
wrapped in cloth soaked in a weak permanganate solution, was placed in
a splint, and was loosely bandaged. There was some sloughing, but this
was treated on general surgical principles. The patient recovered the
entire use of her arm, and was turned out cured in about six weeks.

The third case I saw about fourteen hours after he was struck. The
patient was a healthy blacksmith, about 30 years of age. The wound was
at about the middle of the forearm, the fangs entering toward the
ulnar side. When I saw the patient he exhibited comparatively trifling
symptoms. His heart action was rapid, and he was suffering from the
typical despondency and terror, but I could not note the profound
systemic depression characteristic of the great majority of cases.
Surrounding the wound and extending up the forearm for several inches
there was a boggy swelling, exhibiting a sharp line of demarkation. It
was bronzed in color, and was apparently spreading. I at once applied
the intermittent ligature just above the elbow, and injected the
permanganate of potassium solution freely all through the involved
tissues, particularly in the region of the bite and about the
periphery of the swelling, surrounding the latter by a complete ring
of injections.

The general treatment of this patient was continued on the same
general line as described in the former cases, stimulants being
employed moderately. He recovered without any bad symptoms. There was
no sloughing; the swelling disappeared without any necrosis of tissue.
He is still pursuing his trade in Cheyenne, and suffers from
absolutely no disability.

I saw but one case shortly after the wound was inflicted. This patient
was a healthy young man, who was struck about the middle of the dorsal
surface of the hand, the fangs entering on each side of a metacarpal
bone, and the poison lodging apparently in the palm of the hand. The
patient, when seen, exhibited the characteristic terror and
depression, weak, rapid heart action, and agonizing local pain. I made
two small incisions in the region of the wound upon the dorsum of the
hand, and injected permanganate of potassium freely. This patient
ultimately recovered, but only after sloughing and prolonged
suppuration. I believe that had I incised freely and at once from the
palmar surface, I would have been spared this unpleasant complication.

I have had in all nine cases, and without a single death. The others
are in their general features and in the treatment employed quite
similar to those given.

The symptoms resulting from snake bite poison are strikingly like
those dependent upon the violent septic poison seen in pre-antiseptic
times. There is often the same prodromal chill, the high elevation of
temperature, the profound effect on the circulation, and the rapid
cellular involvement. The tissue disturbance following snake poisoning
differs from ordinary cellulitis, however, in the following
particulars: The color is _bronze_, not red; the involved area is
_boggy_, not brawny; and the extension of the process is _exceedingly

The treatment applicable to one condition seems to be equally
successful when applied to the other. In cellulitis, free incisions,
antiseptic lotions, and active stimulation are the three means upon
which the surgeon mainly depends, and in combating the local and
general symptoms excited by snake bite poisoning, the same treatment
has given me the successful results detailed above. Whether or not
permanganate of potassium is more active than other antiseptics in
snake bite poisoning I am not prepared to state, but the high
authority of S. Weir Mitchell, together with my own experience, does
not incline me to substitute any other drug at present.

I would formulate the treatment for poison of the rattlesnake as

1. Free incisions to the bottom of the wound and immediate
cauterization; or, if this is not practicable, sucking of the wound.

2. The immediate application of an intermittent tourniquet, that is,
one which is relaxed for a moment at a time, so that the poison may
gain admission into the circulation in small doses.

3. The free administration of alcohol or carbonate of ammonium.

This might be termed the _urgency treatment_ of snake bite poisoning.
The _curative treatment_ requires -

4. Free incisions into all portions of the inflamed tissues, and the
thorough kneading into these incisions of a fifteen per cent. solution
of permanganate of potassium.

5. Multiple injections of the same solution into all the inflamed
regions, but particularly into the region of the wound.

6. The complete surrounding of all the involved tissues, by
permanganate of potassium injections placed from half an inch to an
inch apart, the needle being driven into the healthy tissue just
beyond the line of demarkation, and its point being carried to the
deepest part of the border of the indurated area.

7. The permanganate of potassium solution should be used freely in
fifteen per cent. solution. I have used one and a half drachms of the
pure drug diluted, and would not hesitate to use four times that
quantity were it necessary, since it seems to exert no deleterious
effect, either locally or generally.

8. The involved area should be dressed by means of lint saturated with
fifteen per cent. permanganate of potassium solution. Stimulants
should be given according to the indications - i.e., the condition of
the pulse. Laxatives, diuretics, and diaphoretics should be
administered to aid in the elimination of the poison. The diet should
be as nutritious as the stomach can digest. - _The Therapeutic

* * * * *


Wuchang, on the Yangtsze opposite Hankow, is the capital of the two
provinces Hupeh and Hunan. Here, every third year, the examination for
competitors from both provinces is held, and a correspondent of the
_North China Herald_, of Shanghai, describes the scene at the
examination at the beginning of September last. The streets, he says,
are thronged with long-robed, large-spectacled gentlemen, who inform
the world at large by every fold of drapery, every swagger of gait,
every curve of nail, that they are the aristocracy of the most ancient
empire of the world. Wuchang had from 12,000 to 15,000 bachelors of
arts within its walls, who came from the far borders of the province
for the examination for the provincial degree. About one-half per
cent. will be successful; thousands of them know they have not the
shadow of a chance, but literary etiquette binds them to appear. In
the wake of these Confucian scholars come a rout of traders, painters,
scroll sellers, teapot venders, candle merchants, spectacle mongers,
etc.; servants and friends swell the number, so that the examination
makes a difference of some 40,000 or 50,000 to the resident
population. In the great examination hall, which is composed of a
series of pens shut off from each other in little rows of 20 or 30,
and the view of which is suggestive of a huge cattle market, there is
accommodation for over 10,000 candidates. The observance of rules of
academic propriety is very strict. A candidate may be excluded, not
only for incompetence, but for writing his name in the wrong place,
for tearing or blotting his examination paper, etc. After the
examination of each batch a list of those allowed to compete for
honors is published, and the essay forms for each district are
prepared with proper names and particulars. The ancestors of the
candidate for three generations must be recorded, they must be free
from taint of _yamen_ service, prostitution, the barber's trade and
the theater, or the candidate would not have obtained his first
degree. With the forms 300 cash (about 1s.) are presented to each
candidate for food during the ordeal. The lists being thus prepared,
on the sixth day of the eighth moon (Tuesday, the 8th of September, in
1891), the city takes a holiday to witness the ceremony of "entering
the curtain," i.e., opening the examination hall. For days coolies
have been pumping water into great tanks, droves of pigs have been
driven into the inclosure, doctors, tailors, cooks, coffins, printers,
etc., have been massed within the hall for possible needs. The
imperial commissioners are escorted by the examination officials to
the place. A dozen district magistrates have been appointed to
superintend within the walls, and as many more outside, two prefects
have office inside, and the governor of the province has also to be
locked up during the eight days of examination. The whole company is
first entertained to breakfast at the _yamen_, and then the procession
forms; the ordinary umbrellas, lictors, gongs, feathers, and
ragamuffins are there in force; the examiners and the highest officers
are carried in open chairs draped in scarlet and covered with tiger
skins. The dead silence that falls on the crowd betokens the approach
of the governor, who brings up the rear. Then the bustle of the actual
examination begins. The hall is a miniature city. Practically martial
law is proclaimed. In the central tower is a sword, and misdemeanor
within the limits is punished with instant death. The mandarins take
up their quarters in their respective lodges, the whole army of
writers whose duty it is to copy out the essays of the candidates, to
prevent collusion, take their places. Altogether there must be over
20,000 people shut in. Cases have been known in which a hopeful
candidate was crushed to death in the crowd at the gate. Each
candidate is first identified, and he is assigned a certain number
which corresponds to a cell a few feet square, containing one board
for a seat and one for a desk. Meanwhile the printers in the building
are hard at work printing the essay texts. Each row of cells has two
attendants for cooking, etc., assigned to it, the candidates take
their seats, the rows are locked from the outside, the themes are
handed out, the contest has begun. The examination is divided into
three bouts of about 36 hours, two nights and a day, each, with
intervals of a day. The first is the production of three essays on the
four assigned books; the second of five essays on the five classics;
the third of five essays on miscellaneous subjects. The strain, as may
be imagined, is very great, and several victims die in the hall. The
literary ambition which leads old men of 60 and 70 to enter not
unfrequently destroys them. Should any fatal case occur, the coffin
may on no account be carried out through the gates; it must be lifted
over or sometimes through a breach in the wall. Death must not pollute
the great entrance. At the end of the third trial, the first batch of
those who have completed their essays is honored with the firing of
guns, the bows of the officials, and the ministry of a band of music.
Three weeks of anxious waiting will ensue before a huge crowd will
assemble to see the list published. Then the successful candidates are
the pride of their country side, and well do the survivors of such an
ordeal deserve their credit. The case of those who are in the last
selection and are left degreeless, for the stern reason that some must
be crowded out, is the hardest of all.

* * * * *


We illustrate a high speed engine and dynamo constructed by Easton &
Anderson, London. This plant was used at the Royal Agricultural
Society's show at Doncaster in testing the machinery in the dairy, and
constituted a distinct innovation, as well as an improvement, on the
appliances previously employed for the purpose. The separator, or
whatever might be the machine under trial, was driven by an electric
motor fed by a current from the dynamo we illustrate. A record was
made of the volts and amperes used, and from this the power expended
was deduced, the motor having been previously carefully calibrated by
means of a brake. So delicate was the test that the observers could
detect the presence of a warm bearing in the separator from the change
in the readings of the ammeter.


The engine is carefully balanced to enable it to run at the very high
speed of 500 revolutions per minute. The cranks are opposite each
other, and the moving parts connected with the two pistons are of the
same weight. The result is complete absence of vibration, and
exceedingly quiet running. Very liberal lubricating arrangements are
fitted to provide for long runs, while uniformity of speed is provided
for by a Pickering governor. The high pressure cylinder is 4 in. in
diameter, and the low pressure cylinder is 7 in. in diameter. The
stroke in each case is 4 in.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.]

The dynamo is designed to feed sixty lamps of 16 candle power each,
the current being 60 amperes at 50 volts. The armature is of the drum
type. The peculiar feature of it is that grooves are planed in the
laminated core from end to end, and in these grooves the conductors,
which are of ribbon section, are laid. Slips of insulating material
are laid between the coils and the dovetailed mouths of the grooves
are closed with bone or vulcanized fiber, or other dielectric. At each
end of the core there are fitted non-magnetic covers. At the
commutator end the cover is like a truncated cone, and incloses the
connections completely. One end of the cone is supported on the end
plate of the armature and the other end on a ring on the commutator. A
bell-shaped cover incloses the conductors at the other end of the
armature. The result is that the conductors are completely incased,
protected from all mechanical injury, and positively driven. They can
neither be displaced nor abraded. The conductors on the magnet coils
are likewise carefully protected from harm by metal coverings. These
dynamos are made in sixteen sizes, of which seven sizes are designed
to feed more than 100 lamps, the largest serving for 600 lamps.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.]

Messrs. Easton & Anderson are showing machinery of this type at the
Crystal Palace Electrical Exhibition now open in
London. - _Engineering_.

* * * * *


The decomposition of a solution of common salt, and its conversion
into chlorine gas and caustic soda solution by means of an electric
current, has long been a study with electro-chemists. Experimentally
it has often been effected, but so far as we are aware, the success of
this method of production has never until now been demonstrated on a
sound commercial basis. The solution of this important industrial
problem is due to Mr. James Greenwood, who has been engaged in the
development of electro-chemical processes for many years. The outcome
of this is that Mr. Greenwood has now perfected an electrolytic
process for the direct production of caustic soda and chlorine, as
well as other chemical products, the operation of which we recently
inspected at Phoenix Wharf, Battersea, London. One of the special
features in connection with Mr. Greenwood's new departure is the novel
and ingenious method by which the electrolyzed products are separated,
and their recombination rendered impossible. This object is attained
by the use of a specially constructed diaphragm which is composed of a
series of V-shaped glass troughs, fitted in a frame within each other
with a small space between them, which is lightly packed with asbestos
fiber. Another important feature of the apparatus is a compound anode
which consists of carbon plates, with a metal core to increase the
conductivity. The anode is treated in a special manner so as to render
it non-porous and impervious to attack by the nascent chlorine evolved

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Online LibraryVariousScientific American Supplement, No. 841, February 13, 1892 → online text (page 5 of 11)